Deeper Thoughts

February 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

So I seem to be denying the things that are most upsetting me about this …situation.

First and foremost, I simply feel betrayed, painfully disappointed. I feel like I put in all this work and got very little out of it because now it seems like everything I’ve committed the last five years of my life to has been mostly a total waste.

4+ years of trying to keep my relationship together is finally coming to an end because my boyfriend couldn’t fix things on his end.

Apparently all the work I did in college — part-time job, internship, double major, honors thesis, and certificate in museum studies — really doesn’t matter that much.

The last few months I’ve been in school, working on my Master’s and trying to really shine as a student has been overlooked. No one cares that I have the best grades in my class. No one cares how much I’ve done to try and turn the student gallery around. No one cares that I carry the discussions in most, if not all, of my classes. No one cares.

The last year at work has likewise been fruitless. I’ve been busting my ass, I’ve been biting my tongue, I’ve been trying to get excited about the new direction of our project. No one cares. No one notices.


I’ve been passed over for a number of things in my life. In high school, I was passed over for the department award. My teachers wouldn’t tell me why.

I was rejected from every PhD program I applied to when I was a senior in college. No one could tell me why.

I only got High Honors on my thesis in college but no one would tell me why I didn’t get Highest. My advisor said it was because I didn’t use any sources in a non-English language (I was working on American art about an American sitter… everything I found was in English). One of the professors who sat on my committee was going to write me an email about why my paper didn’t earn Highest Honors, but I guess she never got around to it. I asked her if I had more time to edit, would it have done better, and she said no.

I have thus far been rejected for every fellowship I’ve applied for. The most I could get out of my advisor is that there is “nothing I could do to make my application better” and that there are a “whole host of factors” that have nothing to do with my application at all.

No one will tell me why I’m so often passed over. I don’t know how it keeps happening so I don’t know how to fix it.

I keep thinking that maybe I’m just not smart enough and that’s why I keep getting turned down for things. But I’m definitely doing better than my peers in my current Master’s program, and at Emory I was on Dean’s List my last four semesters.

I think what it comes down to is that I’m just not enough of an original and creative mind. I can get by, I can do well in class, I can ask good questions sometimes, but overall, I’m smart but I’m not interesting. That’s why I’m deathly afraid that I won’t get into a PhD program this time around either, because I’m just not a *creative* enough academic. I’m worried that if I leave my Master’s program, I’ll never get in anywhere. I’m worried that leaving the program for financial reasons, then going home to sit in the woods to study French and German just won’t be a good enough way to spend another year off from school.

If I don’t get into a PhD program this round, what will my life be? I will have given up on my Master’s degree. I will have given up my job. I won’t even have alec around to talk to and to make me laugh. I will be alone with nothing but a long list of things I did that didn’t matter. I won’t even be able to move somewhere else because I won’t have an income for a year, and you know people rarely get hired when they’ve been unemployed for a while. I’ve been spending the last six years of my life planning for a career that is impossible to have without a PhD. I have nothing else to offer.

This is where I’ll very likely be spending the next year of my life. Essentially, in retreat.

Retreat has a couple relevant connotations to my situation. Retreat refers both to a designated time for rest, recuperation, meditation, and to a cowardly abandonment of an unwinnable situation.

I refuse to stay at GW if they won’t give me financial aid. A Master’s degree from them is not worth $50,000. It is an unwinnable situation.

I refuse to stay at my current job if my boss won’t give me the respect I have earned. $35,000 a year at a company where I will never be able to move up in isn’t worth it. It is an unwinnable situation.

I refuse to stay in a relationship with a man who doesn’t give me what I need to be happy, no matter how clearly I ask for it. Sometimes love just isn’t enough. It is an unwinnable situation.

So I’m retreating. Is it cowardly? Or is it simply a set time for meditation and rest?

Can I give up everything I have worked for in the hopes that a year off will not doom my future to hell?

What will I do if I don’t get into a PhD program? I am risking so much by quitting all three of my unwinnable situations. I am not usually such a gambler and I find it terrifying on multiple levels. But staying in unwinnable situations isn’t exactly healthy, is it.

How can I make people understand that I didn’t retreat because I failed, but instead because I was simply unhappy? If you choose to bail, don’t you get some credit for that? Or is the very act of retreat an act of swallowing one’s pride since even the people who know the details will think that you bailed out in cowardice or because you just weren’t good enough to cut it.

I haven’t had time for rest, recuperation, or meditation in years. Literally years. The last “vacation” I took was a business trip extended by one day. Don’t I deserve some time off, some time to rest?

But is that rest going to be worth it if it completely ruins my life?

How do I decide and how can I be sure I’m making the right decision? Perhaps more importantly, how can I know I’ll be okay if things don’t work out? How can I not blame myself for ruining my own life.

But I guess that’s always the question, isn’t it?


§ 2 Responses to Deeper Thoughts

  • Dr. Terry Portis says:

    I really appreciate your honesty and transparency in your posts. It’s refreshing.

    Sometimes circumstances make our decisions for us. We have to decide if there is really a decision to be made, or if the circumstances we are in have made it for us.

    For three years I lived on being adjunct faculty. No insurance, no vacation days, no certainty if you would have any classes the next semester. I sent out resumes almost everyday for three years. For many of the administrators at that college, I was the hired help that they didn’t have much time for.

    What I didn’t know then, is that I would learn things during those three years that would help me for the next 15 years of my career. I would learn how to teach, how to run a program, how to talk to students, how to relate to people from all walks of life, and what life was like as an adjunct. I now supervise 150 adjunct faculty, and I can really put myself on their shoes.

    The point is, that I was in a situation that sometimes I felt desperate to get out of. I was kicking and screaming to get out of it. Yet somehow, I came out the other side better than when I went into it with experience that I could use. That’s what we have to hold onto when we find ourselves in what seems like no-win situations with not a lot of good choices.

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